Legacy of bookmarks

I was attending a meeting with other assistants and teachers in our southwest suburban school district that contains three schools. As soon as I walked in a mother who now works in the district flags me down with her son beside her who is now in fifth grade. It took me only a brief minute but she said,” Do you remember my son? “I remembered him in kindergarten; a delightful boy who was a joy to work with and now a fan of the Greenbay Packers, like me. “He still uses all the bookmarks you made for him and he nods with pride,” she said.

The bookmarks???? Five years ago, it began….before the pandemic. When I started making bookmarks to celebrate all holidays in our school building. The school hosts kindergarten-2nd grade while the two other schools supported 3rd-5th and 6th -8th.  First, I began making them for the classroom I was in which was usually kindergarten and would try to personalize each with their name. Then, I would create a bookmark of something they enjoyed such as a unicorn which I distinctly remembering how popular. It also depended on the time of year or holiday.

They were three-dimensional in some way whether it be fancy heart stickers for Valentine’s Day or the great snowman with delicate snowflakes for winter break. And everybody usually got their favorite colors if my memory served me well. Sometimes if I was really in the mood, bookmarks would have an original saying such as follow your heart for Valentines Day.

After my first attempts, I would have the occasional student from another class ask if I had a book mark and so it began. I started making more….just in case. And for many that would go on to the next grade, my bookmarks followed. They would see me in the hallway and ask if I was still making them for my current students. I always had extras… given with approval. They knew where to find me. Again, never missing a student who needed that bookmark for their favorite book.

Last year, I did create bookmarks at the end of the year for a first grade class. Each in a plastic bag with a glow worm necklace following pandemic rules. They weren’t impressed. I had lost my touch with few stickers and variety. No, there is a difference in maturity levels in first grade.

I am helping in the kindergarten and have not made one this year. Maybe after the beautiful message from the fifth grader, following my heart and God, my latest bookmark beginnings will celebrate the upcoming holidays with the best snowman art I can create. But again, that is not what they like. It is just creating something handmade which is special to them even if it lacks variety. This is their first year of school and generally they are just more accepting of mistakes; trying our best, forgetting all the rest. Forging ahead with patience and love this Thanksgiving break…….the bookmarks are almost done.

It only takes one…….

As I was sharing my story about Prairie Avenue to the many Facebook sites, I was thinking about my cousins comment to me when I would become discouraged. It only takes one to read your story and become inspired. Right at that moment when God’s angel was reminding me, someone wrote a response on how she enjoyed all of my stories of Chicago field trips. All? It can also take one negative comment… why I write without getting paid more. My passion…..do ya think?  What are other examples of… it only takes one…. to positively change your attitude? Read on…..

After years of infertility and sickness, they found a lady had only three mature eggs. One was fertilized. The miracle egg became the perfect baby. It only takes one!

After years of addiction, he finally quit and remained sober meeting the love of his life.

After a few years in a public school, a child was not doing well. A change to a smaller, private setting was a much better venue and the student prospered. She became a teacher. She became a principal.

She had lost her family to death, as well as her job and really wanted a new start. She moved to the state she had always dreamed and her life changed for the better.

Sometimes, it takes just one phone call, email or conversation to open new doors of hope.

Sometimes it just takes one smile on someone’s face.

What about that son, daughter or loved who says just the right thing at just the right time?

What about the one friend that has known you for decades and all of sudden shows up in color or in a message?

And what about your Mom or Dad telling you how proud they were of you before passing away many years ago?

Maybe it is the phantom driver behind you who paid for your lunch in the McDonalds drive through line that made a difference in your life.

Let’s not forget the people who shoveled your driveway after a massive snowstorm while you slept and never let you know who did the work.

Or the plumber that changed out a toilet for free after a huge leak on the weekend and no one was there to help.

Even the dentist who fixed a partial denture that had a chip for no charge because he knew your insurance would not pay.

And what about that one email from Chicken Soup of Soul that tells you they are going to publish your story and the book arrives in print.

The man that was dying of cancer with no hope from any physician meets a friend at a high school reunion who is a doctor that specializes in his type of cancer. The man is still alive many years later.

How about the man that could not stand to watch his wife of 50 years die; her health had been failing for months but kept hearing a voice saying he would be okay and when she died, he heard her voice saying that she was great.

Or the millions of angels stories out there of tragic accidents being halted.

When you have been told that as a teacher, you have been an Angel to their child, you finally put your decisions in God’s hands.

And sometimes, it only takes ……that one prayer.

Thankful for music

It was in the beginning of the school year that the kindergarten students were exercising to a variety of music, a selection of songs from all eras, and suddenly Freebird by Lynyrd Skynyrd came on. They continued, without interruption, but I picked up my pace singing to myself as the substitute gym teacher just smiled. Over Halloween, Michael Jackson moved the children along in movement.

My own children remember me singing to a fake microphone…a hair brush, to be exact, while Whitney Houston played in the background. My daughter and I sang together one night and got caught by her brother and his friends walking in the door. He was ready to turn around and walk out….never to grace our lives again. He was in high school with free rent and food…he thought better of it.

Music has always made me smile and my collection is vast starting in the days of bubble gum rock such as Woman, Woman by Gary Puckett and the Union Gap. From there in the late 1960’s/1970’s, we included popular Motown with the hits of Diana Ross, Marvin Gaye and the Temptations as well as harder rock like Jethro Tull, The Who, Three Dog Night, Earth Wind and Fire, Chicago and the list goes on and on. I even tolerated some disco. I did play piano for many years and easy classical music along with show tunes, popular through the decades, were my best performances.

In many elementary classrooms today, teachers will select videos from Go Noodle, which promotes movement for kids and many have learned how to floss from Blazer. No, it is a dance. And then there is famous Fabio Moose and making purple soup! Now, many, not a great example of beautiful music. Oh my….I sound just like my mother when rock and roll hit the scene.

But our passionate music teacher always saves the day by introducing the kindergarten through second grade students to different forms of classical and shows them how to move through various tempos. Our class sees her twice a week, once on Friday afternoon so it is truly a blessing to leave the school with the true promise of music in my heart. Last week, I listened and watched the students learn how to move and freeze through the orchestrated arrangement of the Syncopated Clock by Leroy Anderson.

Oh, how I remember that song playing on my Mom’s radio by the Boston Pops orchestra, in the kitchen, back in the days when I was in elementary school! Oh yes, Mom..if you are listening….. the lifelike sounds of exceptional music are being introduced and played again everyday. Mom would be proud of the talented music teacher and her students!

 

 

Pitch What’s True

Ten thousand pitches in the form of queries, pitches, proposals, manuscripts, submissions that she has evaluated in the twenty-five years of publishing books and running publishing companies.

Sharon Woodhouse, is owner and publisher of Everything Goes Media, a nonfiction book publishing company with four imprints and consulting division, Conspire Creative. She is truly an expert and has shared her knowledge in workshops to thousands of writers on navigating the best path to a published nonfiction book. And now she has put her material in a book as well as the assessment tools she and her editorial team uses when they evaluate a new project.

Pitch What’s True is a workbook that expands your knowledge of what publishing a nonfiction book is all about and what that can mean in your life as an author. Many do not acknowledge the true process, energy and commitment that is involved in becoming a published writer and building a relationship with the publisher. The book is a checklist on understanding general publishing industry insights such as knowing what publishing options are available; the Literary Marketplace and Publishers marketplace are some examples. Pitch What’s True also helps authors differentiate between the success of print and digital formats.

The workbook discusses gaining intense knowledge of the specific publisher you are pitching. Will your book, for example, open up new groups of customers and be a financial asset to the publisher? The workbook also provides a step by step cheat sheet for finding and contacting the optimal publisher for your book. Which publishers should be at the top of your list, aiming, for example, at least 50 to 100 publishers total?

To showcase the true value of your talent as a writer and really put your soul into the publishing game, contact Everything Goes Media website for more information on purchasing this excellent tool, Pitch What’s True. Great exercises are included to keep you on track in the publishing process to meet your own goals.

Celebrating black Chicago style music legends

By Caryl Clem:

Rhythmic music vibrates as Earth, Wind & Fire starts a song and you feel yourself jumping onto the dance floor.   Since the band first played in 1971 under the direction of Maurice White until today currently playing in Las Vegas, their unique blend of funky disco soul creates a sound you never tire of hearing.  Love experiences were featured in popular chart hits such as “Reasons”, “After the Love Has Gone”, and “Got to Get You into My Life.”  EWF music is often positive and inspiring thus giving you a feel good vibe as you is listening.  EWF has won 6 Grammys.

Love songs that last for decades were born in Chicago.  Lou Rawls rich baritone voice croons, “You’ll Never Find another Love like Mine”   a romantic favorite holding couples together on countless dance floors.  A perfect song for gentlemen wishing to win any lady’s heart was Lou Rawls performing, “Lady Love”.  Lou was born on the South Side of Chicago on December 1, 1933. His paternal grandmother was in charge of his upbringing introducing him to church and singing in the choir by the age of seven. Connections made through his church activities led to meeting influential black musicians Sam Cooke and Curtis Mayfield.  Over 40 million records during 40 years of performances testify to Rawls legendary status.

Curtis Mayfield, a singer born in Cabrini-Green Housing Projects of Chicago born June 3, 1942.   Curtis taught himself to play guitar that he found in a closet when he was about 8 years old and piano at his church. His golden tenor voice was discovered while he sang in his church choir by the founder of the group, The Impressions, Jerry Butler.   He became a song-writer producer with his record label Curtom while performing with this group.

During the 1960’s Curtis advocated civil rights in songs like,” Keep On Pushing”,  and  “ Get Ready”.  By the 1970’s Curtis became a voice to express what black culture felt, personal struggles and successes. He wrote the soundtrack to the 1972 album  “Superfly”. He produced songs with divas Aretha Franklin and Gladys Knight and the Pips. “In the 1990s, the musician inspired two different tribute albums (including 1994’s All Men are Brothers: A Tribute to Curtis Mayfield, featuring Whitney Houston, Elton John, the Isley Brothers and Aretha Franklin)

Over the past several years, his songs have been sampled or covered by a host of performers, from rappers like Snoop Dogg, LL Cool J, Coolio and Dr. Dre to singers like Herbie Hancock, Deneice Williams, En Vogue and Mary J. Blige.” https://www.biography.com/people/curtis-mayfield-9542244

A featured line dance during the 1950’s was The Stroll.  By the 1970’s “ getting the groove on” transformed into lively adaptions titled, The Hustle, The Bump, YMCA, The Funky Chicken, Disco Finger, The Bus Stop, The Robot, The Lawnmower, The Sprinkler, and The Electric Slide.

The absolute star of the 1970’s was produced by Chicago radio star, Don Cornelius. Showcasing 1970’s era style and flair featuring the rock star groups from coast to coast with spectacular dancers appearing on stage, “Soul Train “aired on WCIU-TV. The dancers became a HOOK for developing loyal followers.  As important as the dancers were, they performed without pay in the beginning.

From 1971 until 2006, youth discovered the latest music sensation from home. Five days a week for an hour, professional and amateurs paraded and sang the latest hits. Barry White with his 42 piece Orchestra, The Jackson Five or James Brown could be watched from the comfort of your living room. The excitement of a theatre showing could be enjoyed without tickets or parking worries. Several books describe the various acts and social impact this show made on America, Questlove culled personal memories and full-color photographs in Soul Train: The Music, Dance, and Style of Generation (HarperDesign).

While Love, Peace, and Soul: Behind the Scenes of America’s Favorite Dance Show Soul Train: Classic Moments (Backbeat Books) Ericka Blount Danois is more of a commentary about what happened on this show.   Reliving this time period is easy with pulling up YouTube on your computer while you travel through time.

As February ends, I am thankful for the contributions from our Chicago born black musicians.

It is a wonderful school

“My whole life has been in education,”  I said in conversation with the principal at Elizabeth Ide School a few days ago. And so I begin to reminisce.

This all began over 50 years ago for me; babysitting, reading books, and playing with the neighborhood toddlers at the age of 12. Over 40 years ago, I began teaching high school for ten years and then began teaching junior high at a special education alternative school. I would have stayed, but the money wasn’t the best for putting two children through college.

For 10,000 dollars more, I was offered an administrative position at a for-profit college which I took. My children could take advantage of tuition reimbursement. But that school had a massive, corporate lay off which I was included. Like a car salesman being picked up at another dealership, I was picked up by another school. Finally, the school or should I say company, closed for good. Eventually, it was agreed upon in my family that applying for a teacher assistant or becoming a substitute would be the best choice.Those positions are always in demand.

So I subbed and assisted in one of the more highly-acclaimed and well-paid districts in Naperville. I saw some excellent teaching. I saw some very poor instruction of teachers  lecturing to a classroom; constantly glancing at their cell phone. I heard a teacher call a student a jerk.

I had applied to a variety of schools at the time and I always loved the kindergarten as well as the early, primary grades. The day after I had been hired at Elizabeth Ide School, grades kindergarten through second in Darien, it was God’s gift that one who knew my employment struggle and was a personal job reference revealed that his children went to the school. I had no idea.

“It is a wonderful school,”  he said. I also found out that another friend was employed for over 30 years within the same district…..Center Cass School District 66, though she was at another school that had closed. “The culture is so competent and caring there,  she said. At the time, I did not realize her school was part of the same district.

After assisting almost two years at the school, it truly is a wonderful school! I don’t think I have ever seen a teacher who is not totally focused on expressing learning opportunities for their students. They are constantly on in a positive light. They are engaged in their children’s needs from the time they arrive in the morning until they leave at night. They are brilliant at executing ideas to help students grow. They know exactly how to help build amazing futures for them.

Throughout the entire district, the teachers love their job, but most of all, they love their students with a passion unequal to most school environments that I have observed.  Administration,assistants and support staff also intensely work, side by side, to demonstrate their love and pride for the students.

Currently, the district teachers are fighting for a fair contract. They have been without a contract since August 2018. According to CCEA Inspires, if the Board accepts the teachers proposal, no new taxes will affect the community as well as no program cuts.

Then why????

Why aren’t we assuring that the best educators remain in the district? In the process, if teachers and staff are able to thrive, we are also guaranteeing that the value of our home and village is recognized as one of the most promising as far as education excellence. Our own children will want to raise their families here.

Even if present home owners taxes were increased, the advantages far outweigh the immediate circumstances. As a homeowner of over 30 years in a neighboring Downers Grove school district, I have voted yes to numerous referendums and supported teacher strikes while watching my property value almost double.

Maybe the Board just doesn’t realize how valuable their teachers really are. Maybe all I can do is try to share my experience and help them re-examine the teachers proposals.

Ultimately, you can help too. If you are a member of the community or just interested in supporting the teachers at Center Cass School District 66, the Board of Education is providing an Informational Session next week for parents and friends to learn more.

Please check out the Center Cass website. The teachers need your attention and time is running out.

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Back to school

I don’t remember the beginnings of kindergarten though I do remember that my teacher, Mrs O’Brien, at Hoyne School on the South Side of Chicago. She was kind, patient and always encouraging. I had a favorite friend that she would let me sit next to while we sang songs. I loved to watch her play piano and she said I had the hands of a musician. She would tell me that when I would become frustrated with writing. Yes, Mrs. Obrien, I taught and played piano for many years probably because of you.

I do remember beginning first grade because it was at a brand new school that had just been built in 1962 because of overcrowding at Hoyne.  We were the first class at Kate Sturgis Buckingham school; in the second picture (currently closed because of just the opposite problem).

The school was to offer kindergarten through fifth grade. I remember sitting only two rows in the back from the four long windows on my left that hung over the built-in bookcases and heating vents. I remember watching the new playground being built and my teacher Mrs. Fox who invited her entire class to her wedding at St Marys in Chicago. After, she was called Ms. Boz and though I liked her, I was scared in first grade.

In the early 1990’s, when the school bus came to pick up my son in Downers Grove for kindergarten at Indian Trail School, he got on but cried… seated in the first seat. My husband put him on because I was too busy crying too. And my daughter who was next in line, could not wait for the bus to arrive on the same spot to take her to school.

Currently, I am assisting in a new kindergarten classroom. Parent and student orientation was on Tuesday morning and how wonderful it is when parents and students from previous year come to find out what class you are in. So many families found me; telling them how they missed me over the summer, sharing their fears and concerns for a new school year.

Wednesday was the first day of school without Mom and Dad. And I wait by the main door to help monitor bus and parent drop off. That is when amazing things begin to happen. As soon as they exit the bus, many come running and that’s when I hear my name called out like never before. There are several ready to give me my hug for the day; sometimes I have one on either side excited to know that I am here for them anytime, any day and any year. Today, I had parents snapping pictures on their cell phones of little ones beginning kindergarten for the first time and asking me to stand with them. How proud it made me feel!

As teachers, administrators, assistants and all staff within a school environment, we inspire hope, establish trust, ignite imaginations and establish a passion for learning. But most of all, we demonstrate love… genuine love for the children, families and the staff that surrounds us.

And when we stumble out the main door at the end of the day, bleary eyed, muscles aching, voices and thoughts strained after the struggles we will encounter as the year progresses, we can never forget those first days we celebrated on the playground.

And that is why we do what we do!

 

 

 

Courage

BY CARYL CLEM:

A soldier’s uniform, fire men drowning  a fire,

Ambulance sirens screaming, roaring past red lights

Brave workers humbly avoiding spotlights

Common symbols of experiences to inspire.

 

Courage , a catalyst,  shapes determination

Pushing you forward, empowering action

Motivation to fight any battle

Challenging  consequences of the struggle.

Courage cleans anger and fear’s pollution

Courage forms pioneers seeking solutions.

 

Courage wins struggles hidden from view

Healing for a heartbroken victim

Daily doses vital, courage stronger than a vitamin.

Opens doorways to a path to pursue

 

Selects steps towards achievement

Ending isolation, disappointment

Now ,  the  letter V  stands for victory

Courage leads into support, love, a new life story.

Heroes

POETRY BY CARYL CLEM:

When life is thrown wayward

Unasked, coming forward

Beside us, courageous collaborators

Humble companions, even champions

Faithful, loyal, upholding honor

A pioneer discovering solutions

Forced by coincidence or circumstance

To save others with intelligence and grace

Never expecting rewards or recognition

                                             Thanks for being my Hero 

Lemonade stands, summer theater and art fairs for charity

I never liked lemonade…..too sour! So my childhood friends and I upgraded one summer on our porch in Chicago. We had been to an excellent ice cream shop in Old Town so we briefly tried to do the same by making sodas. We called our shop Sip and Stir with a big sign and tissue flowers, made out of Kleenex, brightening the red brick of the porch. My Moms bathroom was blue and my girlfriends was pink so we had a colorful combination of flowers. We had a small cooler with vanilla ice cream, metal cups and a couple of cans of 50/50 soda. My father’s glass shop was across the street from Canfields factory and we got free soda.

We lasted about an hour. The flowers kept falling down. The ice cream began to melt. And no one showed up.  Not one person bought a soda out of the goodness of their heart…even our Mom’s were not that interested. And the day we chose was hot.

So, the following summer, we decided to forget the stands of drinks and be much more creative. We would plan an event in advance and sell tickets. We were a little older, more responsible and invited many to be in a play that we wrote together about Betsy Ross sewing the American flag. I don’t remember the details but I directed and played a part. We held the play in my basement where it was nice and cool. We actually had costumes that was supplied by a friends Mom. It would be many years later that I acted and directed in plays as a student and high school teacher.

In the 1990’s, my own had their plays and stand but took it one step further. They created their works of art to be displayed outdoors at our organized summer art fair for Luries Children’s Hospital. Eleven by fourteen paintings, splashed in watercolor or acrylic, hung on the fence for all to see.  Prior to the event,  we then took each drawing and framed them with the right color to highlight each design while finally dressing them in plastic just in case of a sudden rain.

Once all the artwork was submitted and framed, a panel of judges intently studied the variety of floral bouquets, favorite pets as well as trains, planes, automobiles and a selection of rainbows. Each category produced a first, second and third place winner with the appropriate ribbon displayed on the frame. Honorable mention was awarded to those without a ribbon And we collected over a 100 dollars and the children were in the newspaper.

Creating a charitable legacy is the foundation for every success story and starting the early teachings of charity at home is one of the grandest gifts that we can offer to our young. Help them now so they can continue to build their own world rich in selfless endeavors.

Gather your grandchildren, advertise at their school or community center, talk to your neighbors and friends about hosting an art fair with prizes for your favorite cause; a wonderful way to inspire the art of charity in your grandchildren’s hearts.